DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of T'Kuht and is copyright (c) 2002 by T'Kuht. This is a sequel to "Feet of Clay."



HEART OF STONE

T'Kuht



Commander Spock logged the remainder of the duty assignments into the ship's main computer for the rest of the crew to access and shut his cabin terminal off. He was now off duty and free to his own devices. He required no rest and meditation was not needed as far as he knew, so he opted to mingle amongst the crew. "Computer, location of the captain?"

"Captain Kirk is in recreation room 5 poolside," the voice intoned.

Spock decided to check on the captain and see if he might wish to play chess.

* * *

Recreation room 5 was actually more like half the recreation deck. It housed the Olympic sized pool and the smaller lap pools that were nearly always in use. Spock made his way through the quiet throng of people lounging in regulation bathing suits and stifled a group of rowdier crew as they jostled around the edge of the pool. He knew the difference between simple horseplay and earnest scuffling so he did not chastise them verbally. His mere presence quelled their spirits. He located Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy as they talked at one of the poolside tables.

"So he said he would, huh?" Kirk was saying as Spock approached. "Spock, afternoon. What brings you to the pool?"

"Captain, Dr. McCoy. I came to see if I could interest you in a game of chess," he said at his usual half attention stance.

"Spock, you come down to the pool in your full uniform and expect to drag the Captain away from the lovely vista for a mere game of chess? Really, we have to work on you some more," McCoy groused as he sipped his tea.

Spock's eyebrow hit the only slightly amused mark on his forehead. "I simply wished to play chess. The captain is also off duty. Logically, it is only common courtesy to ask if he would care to participate."

"Yeah, well, right," McCoy tried but couldn't come up with a more scathing comeback.

Kirk rolled his eyes. "Right now I'm having a nice visit here. I'll play later if you want."

"That will be ... acceptable."

"Fine," McCoy said abruptly.

"Excuse me?"

"Fine ... that will be fine, not acceptable. Spock, damn you, haven't you learned how to use more informal Standard by now?" McCoy jabbed.

"Dr. McCoy, I have been well inundated with your so-called informal Standard. I prefer to use a more formal pattern of speech. If you will excuse me," he said and started to go.

"Wait a minute. You don't have to run off. Go ahead and set the chessboard up in here, and we can play now," Kirk compromised. It wasn't that he suddenly wanted to play chess, but sometimes McCoy picked at Spock a bit too much for his liking. They were supposed to be friends after all.

Spock went to request the chessboard and pieces. While he was gone, McCoy noticed his head nurse and the chief communications officer walking through from one of the other areas. "Now, that's a nice view," he said softly into his tea.

"Hmm, oh, Chapel? You work with her everyday."

"And you work with Uhura. But I can still admire her can't I? That new hair took a while for me to get used to," the doctor was saying as Spock returned. He began setting the pieces up on the table as Kirk and McCoy continued their musings.

"She did that on leave, didn't she?"

"Yeah. She said she just put it back to the natural color. It makes her eyes stand out more than they did before, and I already thought she had pretty eyes," he admired.

Kirk nodded. "I can see your point. Spock, are you ready to play yet?"

"Yes."

As the opening moves went through without difficulty, McCoy turned to sit backwards in the chair and leaned over the back to watch the proceedings. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he made sure to keep one eye on Spock and one eye on the chessboard. He was trying to present himself as being disinterested, but he didn't quite make it.

"So, how do you like Christine's hair Spock?"

"I fail to see how my opinion of someone else would interest you," Spock replied instantly wary.

"Just asking. It's a little bit of a jolt to see her as a brunette. After all we've always seen her as a blonde. Guess I want to find out if that Vulcan half of yours even recognizes things like that."

"I believe that I was the first of the crew to see Miss Chapel after she dyed her hair and did note that she had done so."

"You said something to her about it?" McCoy asked incredulously. Kirk smirked. Spock got in a point before Bones did.

"I merely noted that something seemed different about her hair. She answered me succinctly and did not create nearly as much fuss as you have over the matter," the Vulcan answered a little tersely as he gave the doctor a serious stare.

He shrugged and sat up to stretch, ended up looking over at the table Uhura and Chapel occupied. They were talking quite animatedly. He had never seen Christine quite that bouncy before.

"She sure has changed. Her entire outlook seems to have done an about face. Did I tell you that she has a new beau?" McCoy said as an aside to Kirk. He really didn't mean for Spock to hear, but Spock's superior hearing would always pick things up he wasn't supposed to hear.

Kirk glanced over at the two women. "Really? About time, she's too young to be stuck in one mode all the time."

"She hasn't let me in on any of the particulars, but apparently he's the lawyer that probated Dana Korby's will. I keep plying her with questions, but she's taken a lesson from old clam mouth back here," McCoy said and poked a thumb at Spock.

"Perhaps she merely wishes to keep her life private. If she has news to tell you, I am certain that she will," Spock said and took one of Kirk's pawns. His voice was slightly harder than it normally was. It was not the subject so much as it was the fact that McCoy never could keep his mind on his own problems and leave others alone.

McCoy took the defensive tone to mean something else. "Don't tell me we've got you upset with the subject matter?"

"No, you do not. I simply refer to the fact that you always have a way of dabbling in other people's lives whether they wish you to or not," he answered and looked McCoy squarely in the eye.

Kirk could feel the heat. "Break."

The commanding tone cut through the trio. "Anyway, she's a lot happier than I've ever seen her," McCoy commented aiming it toward Spock.

"I quite agree. Miss Chapel's attitude has improved dramatically," Spock said.

"Hmph."

"Gentlemen," Kirk began and knocked over Spock's king. "I am tired and ready for bed. You two can sit here and continue arguing for all I care."

Spock regarded the chessboard. He had lost in a rather easy match. It was not his usual style. Left with only McCoy as a companion, he excused himself.

* * *

It was much later in the ship's night cycle that Spock decided to eat. Most of the crew were either on duty or had other things to occupy them at this particular time. He had spent the time between the chess match and the evening meal reading a book that his mother had sent him in the last bulk mail shipment. The small tiff with McCoy had not set well with him for some reason. He was not certain why and would dwell on it when he settled to meditate later. Food however was something he could attend to immediately.

The deck 6 mess hall was the closest to his cabin and therefore the most logical choice. Stepping in, he noted that the other occupant was the recently discussed Christine Chapel. When the doors parted, she looked up to smile brightly at him. It was a different smile than he was accustomed to however. This one did not hold the utter adoration of before. It was more a person genuinely glad to see him walk in the door. "Rather late aren't you Mr. Spock?" she asked cheerfully.

"I could say the same for you. You are on duty in four hours are you not?" Spock said as he retrieved the selection from the slot.

"Too wound up to sleep," she answered. Spock did not sit with Chapel, but he did choose the table next to the booth that she'd selected. A picture album was out before her and photographs strewn on the top of the table. He watched her select one from the pile and paste it onto the page. With a fine hand she wrote: "Your father at age 10."

"What are you doing?"

"Making a picture album for a little girl of her father," Chapel said matter-of-factly.

Spock glimpsed a more recent photo. It was of Roger Korby.

"Dr. Korby?"

The now brunette nurse sighed, "I found out a few things while on leave, Mr. Spock. It's funny, but sometimes humans have to be deeply wounded in order to heal. Does that make sense?"

"Yes," Spock answered after a moment. He had half a dozen questions but the only one that he considered tactful to ask was a rather personal one, "Why did you turn your hair blonde in the first place?"

"My goodness, we're the cat today, aren't we? Oh, I was young and wanted to be dramatic and hair dye is cheap and not permanent," she answered as she fingered through the other pics. There was one of her with Roger that she tucked over to the side. She would not include any of those. She had blonde hair in the photograph. "I found out that Roger supposedly preferred blondes to brunettes. So, I bought a bottle and changed myself to become more appealing," she revealed embarrassed.

"That is illogical," Spock decided.

"Thank you for your very late advice, but yes you are right. I shouldn't have allowed anyone to make me feel as if I needed to change to suit them."

"Then why did you remain a blonde?" he asked a little stupefied. "After Dr. Korby."

"Habit, hanging onto the only things I knew. I don't know. It's demolished my hair. But, in time it will repair itself," Christine said with a determined smile. Her eyes were a little watery. "Just the way I will."

Spock ate for a few minutes. Chapel sifted through more photos, pasted some in, stopped what she was doing to become very serious in her expression. "I'd like to apologize to you."

Spock was visibly confused. "I do not understand."

"For the last four years. I feel I've made a great fool of myself and put you in something of an awkward position."

Spock shook his head. "You do not need to apologize for any incidents. While I could not be who you wished me to be, I was not embarrassed by your presence."

That caught Chapel off guard, she hesitated a moment, chewed on her bottom lip. "Uh ... well, nevertheless I'd like to apologize for whatever it was I did cause."

"Then you no longer find it necessary to 'love me'?" he asked. The question was not so much odd as the tone of voice he had when he posed it.

She screwed her mouth up a second as she considered her answer. "Spock, while I care for you, I suppose I always will, I don't need to gravitate around you anymore to find ... solace. I can go away and not feel pulled back toward you. At least I feel like I can."

Spock nodded slightly. She was gone. The strings that had bound them invisibly together were broken. He did not feel relieved however. He had always assumed that he would. That too was something he'd have to meditate on that evening.



FIN

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